Liam Martin and Cindy Gilroy-Price were elected co-chairs of the Winnipeg Citizens' Coalition at the organization's founding meeting at the Millennium Library on Monday night.
About 180 people attended the first meeting of the non-partisan group, which is modelled after progressive citizens' groups in other Canadian cities and hopes to lobby on behalf of social and environmental issues such as urban development, rapid transit, aboriginal housing and sustainable water use.
Martin, 30, is the son of Winnipeg Centre MP Pat Martin and works as a project manager with Viewpoints Research, a polling firm run by Ginny Devine, whose husband is Premier Gary Doer.
Gilroy-Price, 35, is the daughter of former Liberal-affiliated city councillor Ernie Gilroy and serves as a first-term trustee with Winnipeg School Division No. 1.
"We want to provide a platform for a number of issues, under one tent," Martin said on Tuesday, basking in the glow of an inaugural meeting that saw more people show up than fire regulations at the library would allow.
"We're hoping to involve people in the political process," added Gilroy-Price. "By coming together, we're hoping to take on issues with a bigger voice."
The coalition is not planning to function as a political party. But if the group is successful and the membership swells, it may consider getting involved in elections the way citizens' groups have in Ottawa and Vancouver, the co-chairs said.
Five sitting city councillors attended the coalition's first meeting: Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre), Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas), Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge), Lillian Thomas (Elmwood) and Dan Vandal (St. Boniface). The quintet functions as the de facto opposition to Mayor Sam Katz's centre-right majority at city hall.
But the Winnipeg Citizens' Coalition aims to be non-partisan. In its constitution, the group describes itself as a "broad-based, democratic, socially and environmentally conscious group of individuals" who will pursue social and economic change.
"It's not always about political ideology," said Gilroy-Price, who nonetheless recognizes the symbolism of her and Martin's familial political associations.
"Cindy and I grew up in the same part of town, carrying different flags," added Martin, referring to the West End. "Now we find ourselves working together."